When life as we knew it ground to a halt during the first lockdown, suddenly busy Brits had time to give their breakfast choices more consideration. Rosie Greenaway finds out what has been kickstarting the day in kitchens around the country
If you were eating the most important meal of the day ‘the BK way’ you’d be queuing up at a drive-thru Burger King for something they’re calling a Croissan’wich, launched last January. While fast-food cynics will quickly turn their noses up at greasy, nutrient-empty breakfasts, the chain can at least be commended for the inclusion of an Impossible Foods plant-based patty – a plot twist indeed.
But we’re not here to discuss reheated burger-like breakfasts served through open car windows because, to the fast-food industry’s dismay, unhealthy convenience food did not reign supreme during 2020, all thanks to a little virus called corona. COVID-19, as you’re not doubt only too aware, touched every part of our lives last year; with budgets squeezed and a renewed focus on health, Brits reassessed their eating habits and took more time to prepare food – and breakfast was no exception. With fewer workers flying out the door to catch overcrowded buses, many consumers slowed the pace of their morning rituals and paid a little more attention to their first meal of the day.
Peanut butter achieves a PB
Ask people about their guilty pleasures and one of the most common answers must be eating peanut butter straight from the jar. As a nation, we just can’t get enough of its nutty goodness – and lockdown only intensified our adoration. The combination of ‘stay at home’ orders and hospitality restrictions resulted in sales of PB reaching new heights and overtaking jam, according to Wessanen, which says peanut butter gained a 35.5% increase in total sales over 12 weeks of lockdown number one.
Whole Earth – a Wessanen brand and the official sponsor of Team GB – attributes the category’s boost in part to new innovations hitting the shelves, such as the divisive Marmite Peanut Butter or the brand’s own Chocolate & Hazelnut Peanut Butter, which has people going loco for cocoa. “It offers people the best of both worlds – the nutritional goodness of peanut butter married with the delicious taste of chocolate and hazelnuts,” says brand controller Kirstie Hawkins. Naturally sweetened by dates, it has 80% less sugar than traditional chocolate spreads, giving people a healthier chocolate spread option for crumpets, pancakes, smoothies and porridge.
Consumers have also begun to appreciate the versatility of peanut butter and realize it’s not just for toast
It’s this versatility which Whole Earth also sees as the ‘driving force for demand’ for peanut butter. In a Twitter poll, the brand measured ways consumers were enjoying their PB during lockdown: 63% spread it on toast or bagels; 16.4% prefer it as a topper for cereal or porridge; 12.3% like dipping fruit into it; and 8.2% said it was a regular addition to smoothies.
Bryan Martins, marketing and category director, Wessanen UK, comments on the versatility of this breakfast essential: “With health front of focus following the pandemic, consumers are finding more opportunities to incorporate a healthy spread into the breakfast occasion. Peanut butter sales value overtook jam in supermarkets for the first time ever [in 2020], as customers sought low- or no-added sugar alternatives to sugary spreads.
“Consumers have also begun to appreciate the versatility of peanut butter and realize it’s not just for toast. You can incorporate peanut butter into smoothies, shakes, oat bowls or porridge, as well as substituting it as a healthier baking ingredient for baked breakfast foods such as muffins.”
Nuts about nuts
The nation’s obsession with all things nutty will be further satisfied by Nutcessity’s new certified organic Chocolate Haz Braz Butter, blended from hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cacao and coconut – and crucially, in a peanut-free facility, due to founding director Mike Duckworth’s own peanut allergy. It’s also made without dairy, palm oil, added sugar or preservatives, and is a strong source of protein and fibre.
“Organic September was the right time to release our take on a chocolate hazelnut spread, given the lead up to Christmas, the demand for organic food and drink, and with parents looking for healthier options for their younger ones as they head back to school,” says Duckworth, who describes the flavour as ‘a whipped, nutty, coconut-infused, slightly sweet and slightly salted dark chocolate delight, in a jar’.
Branching into breakfast and marrying the popularity of nuts with the continuing snack bar trend, KIND has launched a breakfast bar range comprising Peanut Butter, Blueberry Almond and Honey Oat (a no-nut option) – all gluten-free, high fibre and soft-baked, with a wholegrain base of oats, millet, buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa.
John McManus, UK marketing director, says the range comes after research which found that 30% of people skip breakfast due to a lack of time for preparation: “We’ve created a premium product that is not only convenient but delivers on health and taste too.”
As workplaces closed on and off throughout last year, the nation’s appetite for on-the-go breakfast solutions inevitably declined, with commuter life temporarily paused and even the school run not taking place in the normal way for most people. But that didn’t stop brands in the healthy breakfast sector from innovating – because after all, not everyone’s job is office-based.
Filling the ‘huge gap in the market’ for healthy, portable pots that can be consumed out and about, Jacqueline Barleycorn, founder of The Great British Porridge Co, launched one-pot porridge bowls as a single-serve, recyclable breakfast on the move. “So many options available on the market are packed with sugar, so we set out to prove that you can create something delicious using all-natural ingredients and no added sugar. Our Breakfast Bowls are the perfect choice if you’re short on time, but care about your health and wellbeing,” says Barleycorn. Just add hot water, stir and enjoy, says the brand of its pots, which come in Classic Chocolate, Caffé Latte and Blueberry & Banana, all made using British wholegrain oats.
Start-up brand The Real Foodists had a similar idea, entering the British market with Yo’ridge – a ‘plant-based love child of yoghurt and porridge’ which ‘pushes the boundaries of health and taste’. A chilled product, Yo’ridge is packed with bio-live cultures. With an oat, lentil, sesame and coconut base, the core ingredients are combined with ‘a touch of maple syrup and an abundance of fruit’. The three variants are: Banana, Maple & Cocoa Nibs; Apple, Cranberry & Cinnamon; and Blueberries, Raspberries & Blackcurrants – all of which could equally be consumed on a train or, as the brand points out, ‘at the breakfast table’.
“Bodies need fuel to work in the same way a car needs fuel … running on empty is never wise as soon enough it will run out”
The latest power move from BOL Foods is a range of Power Shakes, set to ‘shake up’ the fast-growing meal replacement category. Made exclusively from whole foods, and packed with fruit and veg, each flavour contains 26 essential vitamins and minerals the body needs to start the day right. Designed to ‘fit into the busy lifestyles of health-conscious consumers, time-strapped home workers, tired parents and regular gym-goers’, the range includes two breakfast-specific Power Brekkie Shakes in Coconut, Almond & Chai Spice and Mango, Peach & Creamy Coconut varieties.
Two ends of the spectrum
A traditional bowl of cereal might not sound like the hippest of trends but try telling that to fans of those quirky cereal cafés cropping up around the country, where bowlfuls of retro flakes, puffs and hoops get topped with sweet treats, doused in milk and sold for a pretty penny. It’s a fairly new concept which, although fun and no doubt Insta-pretty, seems to prod at a human weakness the breakfast industry has tried hard to wean people off: the consumption of sugar. After the introduction of the traffic light system in 2014, brands were forced to disclose the sugar content of their cereals on front of pack, naturally pushing them to reduce it. But have consumers themselves got the message?
Kathryn Lewis, owner of Abaca Health Store in Liverpool, thinks so. “I do believe we are now of an era where the understanding and depth of knowledge of health within foods is rapidly growing. The green light system on packaging is a wonderful way of signalling the ingredients of produce without having to extensively read the back of every box. As for educating the public, I do believe there is a huge amount of detailed healthy eating information readily available and that ultimately it’s completely up to the individual to research the best path for them and their family.”
That best path could of course include abstaining from breakfast altogether, as seen with intermittent fasting. While Lewis acknowledges this philosophy as a ‘wonderful way to lose or control weight’, she notes that skipping breakfast ‘should only ever be a short-term solution’.
“Fasting or not, you need to hydrate within 30 minutes of waking up,” she says. “I believe breakfast is a hugely important part of the day … generally speaking people do not leave enough time to enjoy a nutritional breakfast. For children especially, I believe fuelling their bodies correctly for the day ahead is vital for their growth, physically and educationally. Bodies need fuel to work in the same way a car needs fuel to drive. Running on empty is never wise, as soon enough it will run out.”
And with the challenges of 2021 ahead, we might all need a little extra morning fuel to keep us going this winter.
Alara ‘Grow Back Greener’ Range
Alara has become the first cereal manufacturer in the world to declare the Scope 3 (CO2e) – the most demanding measure of carbon emissions – of its products with their new Grow Back Greener range. This includes Apple & Cinnamon Bircher, Crispy Fruit Muesli, Fruits & Seeds Muesli (already in stores) and Original Muesli– an adapted copy of the recipe used in Alara’s first ever product. The information appears on-pack on Alara’s new selection of affordably priced organic breakfast cereals. The company has been working with students and staff at the University of Westminster to collect data and calculate the CO2e for all of the ingredients used in its products. All four products come in plastic-free packaging. RRP £2.70-£3.20.
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Bonsan Organic Breakfast Scramble
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